The holidays are a time for ritual gatherings. Families get together, eat, and drink and share Hanukah or Christmas meals. Along with the ritual potato latkes or the Christmas cookies, there are older family members who sometimes tell the same story over and over. This drives some crazy, or they just write it off to that dotty Aunt Kate and repair straight to the kitchen.
Or they say to themselves, Mom can’t help herself, yes Dad’s a little bonkers, but I have to hear his war story for the 100th time.
Help your clients think again—these stories just might be of great value to their family and their own grandchildren. The holidays are a perfect time to capture the old family tales. What family members might be able to secure, if as a family decide to really listen and ask questions, is a part of their family history and valuable ancestry data, told by a narrator who is is fading.
Old age is a time of reviewing their life, playing that movie for themselves and others. The story is sometimes really heroic.
At times older people use stories to deal with loss. Loss is their constant companion. Elders lose spouses, friends, roles, homes and treasured items that they pass on to their.
This holiday season might be a time to have them tell the story about some of those tchotchkes or valuable knickknacks. Maybe it’s their moms Santa collection or dreidel, still kept lovingly in the customary gathering place for the holiday dinner. Maybe it’s a Christmas ornament. This is called the art of reminiscence.That story becomes a family treasure that can be attached to the ornament and passed down generation after generation with each holiday.
Here are some suggestions to capture these elder holiday stories to pass on to adult child clients.
Get in the right mindset. This doesn’t have to be some huge, time-consuming undertaking. It can be as simple as getting out your smartphone and talking to Grandma on Christmas Eve.
Explain why this is important. Some older adults who grew up on “Mother taught me never to talk about myself” might need some gentle persuasion. I “No one would want to read about me!” Say the grandchildren do.If they are there- have them say it.
Find a quiet place. Have your conversation in a quiet, comfortable place without distractions. If you are recording a conversation with your smartphone, make sure it is fully charged. Plan to spend at least an hour in conversation, then take a break. Make sure you talk about this ahead of time with your loved one. That way they can start thinking about the past before the interview. (Old photos and letters are great memory sparks, or family movies if you have them.)
Get it in writing. Recording or filming is a great way to do an interview, but make sure you transcribe it so you don’t risk losing it to fast-changing technology. Once the interview is transcribed, find a safe place to store it and make a few copies for other family members. There are many online platforms to create books, but a Word document in a file folder will suffice.
Tap resources. A great source for interview questions can be found at the StoryCorps website: https://storycorps.org/great-questions/. If your loved one has memory issues, tell them you are going to ask them a lot of questions and you don’t expect them to answer all of them. Be an engaged listener.
Handbook of Geriatric Care Management has a chapter that covers reminiscence written by care manager, Nina Herndon.
Supporting Client’s Quality of Life: Drawing on Community, Informal Networks and Care Manager Creativity.
You as care manager can use quality of life at any time of the year.